SKOWHEGAN — The message at Eaton Mountain Ski Area is that new ski lifts are ready to roll and it’s almost time to strap on the skis — that’s right, skis and snowboards — for the first time in years.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding will be available on about one third of the Skowhegan mountain this season for the first time since 2006. Snow-making guns are set to be fired up on Wednesday after a welcome Thanksgiving Day snowstorm.

The grand 2014 opening is the day after Christmas.

David Beers, who with his wife Donna purchased the ski area in 2008, has offered snow tubing and ski lodge refreshments the past couple of years, but electrical problems prevented them from running the ski lifts.

Until this year.

“What’s new this year is we have two new ski tows. One is a modern rope tow, the other is a handle tow similar to our snow-tubing lift,” Beers said. “It’s great. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Everybody in the local town has been waiting a long time for it.”

Lodge manager Joyce Keaten and operations supervisor Jason Dumais said 2014 looks to be a turn-around year for Beers.

“This will be the first year since the Beers have owned it to have actual skiing— about eight years,” Keaten said. “The difference this year is tremendous because opening the lodge to have skiers and snowboarders also is going to be a huge occupancy. We’re really excited, even though it’s only part of the mountain. It’s great to be able to get the kids out so they can learn to ski right here local.”

Dumais agreed.

“I think it’s going to be pretty cool this year,” he said. “This is his dream to have skiing on this mountain.”

Beers said he and his wife took over an operation that was in severe disrepair following a fire in 2005. Electrical problems shut the ski lifts down for repairs and ultimately for replacement, he said.

Time and money and an accident that nearly took his life in 2011 delayed progress at the mountain, about five miles east of downtown Skowhegan, but finally have opened the door to what Beers hopes will be a successful season. Beers suffered broken bones and skull fractures Dec. 4, 2011, when an 18,000-pound snow groomer rolled over him at the mountain. His jaw was broken in three places and left him deaf in one ear, he said.

“I want the operation to be done right. We didn’t want it to be a haphazard, dangerous thing,” he said. “I wanted it to be nice. We ran into issues with our electrical system that required us to take a major step back. We had to rebuild the whole thing from scratch basically.”

The electrical lines lit the slopes for night skiing and ran the chair lifts.

Beers said only about a third of the mountain can be accessed by the lifts this season, but the main chair lift will be upgraded to serve the entire mountain in the coming year or two. The ski trail this year is about 700 feet long with a 120-foot vertical drop. The full skiing experience at Eaton Mountain once the chair lift is operational will be 2,000 feet on a dozen downhill trails with a vertical drop of 520 feet.

This year the 114-acre Eaton Mountain will be offering skis and snowboarding equipment for rent and lessons for beginners, Beers said.

“The focus for this season is really just for us to find our feet again for a kind of limited operation with the skiing, and then next year we’ll be adding lighting, additional snow-making and offering school programs to take things to the next level,” he said. “I really believe that we can do it. I believe in the place, and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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